“O Lord, Let it Be a Boy”

Its not like it’s an alien concept for me; I had heard the ‘hearsay’ about it even before marriage and motherhood. Even the Quran talks about it more than once. Its especially common among rural, uneducated villagers, and most "educated and enlightened" Asians in particular (Arabs, Indians, Chinese, Pakistani’s).
 
I admit I never really understood this belief that’s so staunchly embedded in most people’s minds. But now, after marriage, I think I can comprehend the selfish reasons behind it. I now know why people want and prefer a male child.
 
At least one, they say, there should be at least one. Its preferrable that all children are boys; the couple having all boys is considered truly privileged and blessed! If not all, then at least one. The parents having a daughter as their first-born are still expected to "hopefully" beget an "aulaad-e-nareena" (male child) after her. Those having two girls have been "tested" by Allah. And the ones having three are, purely and simply, unlucky.
 
The only scenario in which a couple having girls is considered better off is if they had no children at all. Consolingly, they are reassured, "at least you have children."
 
Hmm. "Why?" I used to wonder then, and "that’s why" is what I say to myself now.
 
Here are some of the reasons which I have come up with after observing and experiencing marriage in all its practicality. Perhaps I should refrain from expressing my opinion about these reasons until after I have listed them.
 
  • A son brings in $money$ after an average of 25-30 years. It is this time frame that ages the parents. Consequently…..
  • A son is a "support" or "sahaara" for the parents in their old age.
  • A son does not have to be protected from the overt entrapping snares (okay, I could not come up with a more polite phrase) of the opposite sex
  • A son is physically strong, therefore, he helps out in outdoor activities and protects his family from corrupted members of his gender (i.e thieves, rapists, crooks etc.). The more men in the house, the more foreboding it becomes for men outside, simple as that. Nothing like violent, hot-tempered men to keep other violent, hot-tempered men at bay!
  • A son carries on the family name after his father’s death. "Naam-o-nishaan baqi rehta hai". [Doesn’t matter if the son-intensive family’s deeds make it more "infamous" than remembered in good terms by others]
  • The wealth of the family stays within the family if there is at least one son (perhaps I should have cited this reason as the very first one); the antique, more-precious-than-life jewelry sets that have been handed down by the daadi’s since many generations will stay within the clan if there is a son (How? His wife will get the jewelry from his mother, who will then pass it on to her own son’s wife, and so on); the "caroron ki praperty" – the house, the car, the assets, the family business – will be inherited by the son, and other families will not have the chance to take away anything (or so it is assumed) when the father dies.
  • Since men pursue women (as a norm of nature), parents of sons are not worried whether their boy will find a suitable match: they have a wide variety of girls to choose from (another norm of nature being that females outnumber males in any species) and they usually wed their son to the "highest bidder" i.e the family providing the most lavish dowry to their daughter (e.g a house, a car, fridge, bedroom and house furniture, washing machine, kitchen utensils, dinner set, etc.). Marriage of a son is a "smooth sail": going house-hopping ogling at other people’s daughters, asking intrusive questions about the dowry she will be given, and picking the one liked best.
  • A son is a means of bringing "blessings" into the house: he increases the number of family members. He gets married and has children who fill up the house with joy and chatter, bringing a blessed atmosphere to the parents’ home when they are old. Plus, his wife becomes a free housekeeper, cook, and servant of his parents in their old age.

Now let’s look at the "disadvantages" of having a daughter as opposed to a son. Again, analyze the reasons behind these beliefs.

  • Daughters do not "pay back" the investment made on them. Specifically, you spend your entire life raising them, making them good human beings, and eventually they go join some other family where they spend most of their time. Your house becomes empty of fun and frolic, resounding with eerie silence, while the house they get married into echos with the sounds of babies (hopefully male ones) crying and playing around.
  • The $money$ you spent on their education gets "wasted" in the sense that you – the parents – do not get financially supported by them when you enter old age (post-retirement gloomy era). Most girls end up getting married and do not pursue careers that pay them bigger bucks as the years pass.
  • A girl has to be protected from harm and molestation by the "superior" gender – other (lucky) people’s sons – who might lust after her and try to start illegal, illicit liasons with her. If she is lucky enough to be beautiful, she is still a liability: she has to be protected, worried about, stressed over. If she is ugly, the situation is doubly gloomy – she will not be able to attract any one of the superior gender’s specimens to marry her (and will therefore continue to be a bothersome burden for her parents forever, because she doesn’t have a life besides pleasing men in all senses of the word….does she? She’s worthless if she’s not a show-piece).
  • Girls can not help out in the farm (for rural people) or in the fields, or in the shop or family business. All they are good for is household work (the pots of food to be prepared for the big stomachs of the men in the house, the mountains of laundry to be done etc.).
  • Whatever jewelry mothers give to their daughters goes to enrich the family the latter marry into. The parent’s family "jaye-daad" is lessened. Thus, the better jewelry sets are saved for the sons’ wives.
  • Girls (in Indopak at least) change their surnames after marriage, so they do not carry on the family name. A man who has no son has his surname wiped off the map of this world (unless his brothers beget sons, that is).
  • A man without a son has no choice but to leave all his wealth and property to his daughters, who, like the jewelry, take their inheritance into the family they marry into. Most probably, being women who have no will or purpose in life, they gift their wealth to their husbands. So, their father lost all his wealth because he had daughters instead of sons. Had he been "lucky" enough to have even one son, he would have not had to meet this unlucky fate.
  • Last but not least, in order to ensure that their daughters will find husbands who will "condescend to" marry them, and more importantly, that their in-laws will "treat them well" after marriage, parents of daughters have to slave in order to provide them with a lavish dowry. "Izzat kay saat uss ko rukhsat karna hai". A girl without a dowry has fewer chances of buying….I mean, marrying……a husband at the appropriate age, let alone of being treated well by his family in the future. Daughters’ parents, therefore, start collecting dowries for them years before they reach marriageable age.

Once an elderly lady relative chastised me about starting hijab. She reads and converses in good English and belongs to a very "modern", educated family. She also, however, prays regularly and tries to understand the Quran by reading its translation. She said to me, "I don’t agree with your wearing this burqah in today’s time; this command of Allah is not applicable today, although I totally agree with it being Allah’s word in the Quran….I try to interpret and apply Islam in a modern light."

The same lady, on another occasion (that of her grandson’s marriage) was talking about how his mother’s tastiest and most antique jewelry was being given to him (instead of his younger sister). She said, "Bhaee hum tou larkon ko prefer kartay hain" – "We give preference to boys (over girls)".

 

Even educated people who claim to interpret Islam in a "modern" light cling on to customs and beliefs that were practised in the pre-Islamic era of Ignorance – the "Era of Jahiliyyah". The burqah is backward but keeping jewelry in the clan is being very "modern".

 

Now as I said earlier, I will try to get down to the reasons for having such gender-preferences in children: man’s world-loving nature. It coaxes him to associate partners with his Creator: to trust in the means of provision more than the source of provision itself. Ever since China has enforced its one-child policy, most couples abort their baby when they find out its a girl – since most Chinese also prefer boys – as a result of which, the generation that has now become adult is facing an acute shortage of women. Those preferred boy-babies are now finding to difficult to find wives in order to further their race and bear the next generation.

 

First of all, provision is something that only Allah can provide. Let’s see what things come under the vast comprehension of "Rizq":

  • $$Money$$ – the love of our life
  • Children
  • House
  • Jewelry
  • Food
  • Health
  • Clothes
  • Looks
  • Education
  • Knowledge
  • Happiness
  • Honour (to be respected and cherished by others)/Prestige
  • Love of fellow human beings
  • Tangible assets (car, computer, furniture, property etc.)

Any or all of these things are given to us within a just measure, which has been pre-ordained by Allah. They are given to us either by one means or another. We, in our lust for material benefits of this world, try to amass as much as we can in this short life. We forget though, that what is pre-ordained shall come to pass.

 

Nothing that was meant for you can ever pass you by, and whatever passed you by was never meant for you in the first place.

 

What we are supposed to get will be given to us, whether we have daughters or sons, or neither. Its true that being humans we have our inclinations, our desires. The woman who does not conceive after getting married goes through severe torment as she awaits conception. Whether that torment comes from society or her own inner self (most women crave motherhood at one point or another in their lives) varies with each case. I myself know someone who was desperate to conceive. When Allah blessed her with a child, the first day after birth she commented on the baby’s nose being too big, and the complexion being too dark.

 

I would like to think it was post-partum trauma.

 

Hear the case of this relative of mine. He has a son whom he still provides for, the son being a family man himself. His daughter on the other hand, has been earning a 5-figure salary since more than a decade.

 

Maryam [alayhassalaam] used to be provided for by Allah. She used to worship Him in the Mahrab (place dedicated to worship)  during an era when the society around her was very decadent. When her relative-guardian Zakariya [alayhissalaam] visited her in the Mahrab and saw her being provided for by Allah without any apparent means, he turned in earnest duaa to His Creator to bless him with a Vicegerent (Khaleefah) on earth, who would carry out his work of calling people towards Allah after he died. His wife was barren (due to old age) but since he had witnessed Maryam being provided for without any means (she later begot a son the same way, i.e, without being touched by any man), he asked Allah to beget him a son even though his wife was barren. Here’s the proof:

 

So her Lord (Allâh) accepted her with goodly acceptance. He made her grow in a good manner and put her under the care of Zakariyâ (Zachariya). Every time he entered Al-Mihrâb to (visit) her , he found her supplied with sustenance. He said: "O Maryam (Mary)! From where have you got this?" She said, "This is from Allâh." Verily, Allâh provides sustenance to whom He wills, without limit."

38. At that time Zakariyâ (Zachariya) invoked his Lord, saying: "O my Lord! Grant me from You, a good offspring. You are indeed the All-Hearer of invocation."

39. Then the angels called him, while he was standing in prayer in Al-Mihrâb (a praying place or a private room), (saying): "Allâh gives you glad tidings of Yahya (John), confirming (believing in) the Word from Allâh [i.e. the creation of ‘Iesa (Jesus), the Word from Allâh ("Be!" – and he was!)], noble, keeping away from sexual relations with women, a Prophet, from among the righteous."

[Quran:3:37-39] 

 

The reason he wanted a son was to ensure his work – of Da’wah – would go on after his death. Contrast that to why people desire sons.

 

When people like me profess to want children in whatever combination of gender or count my Lord chooses to give me, sometimes I get stares of disbelief and logical arguments of what is good and what is bad. When I profess that its a huge blessing of Allah even that I have been given ONE healthy baby, I get looks of incredulity. Sometimes, bits of conversation of older, "wiser" people who have had all sorts of experiences in life, fall in my ear and make me think about what they are saying and why. Here’s a few:

 

"Masha Allah, masha Allah, when my son is at home, I have to cook more food."

"Bechaari, her third child was also a girl."

"When my daughter gave birth to her son, her mother-in-law prostrated to Allah in thankfulness that it was a boy."

"Most people want their first child to be a boy."

"Just imagine what she must have gone through [when her child was still-born]; Allah gave her a son and then took him back. What a test!"

"If the daughter-in-law gives birth to a son the first time, her value is increased many-fold in her susraal."

"My mother had four daughters in a row but then Allah gave her three sons as well."

"He’s the fourth one; he’s the fourth one." [Spoken by a daadi we went to visit after her third bahu gave birth to her second son; I was wondering why the daadi’s sitting room had 3 blown-up protraits of her toddler potay – grandsons – only, while she has three cute and adorable poti’s also. No portraits of them. Hmm.]

"When my mother gave birth to her third daughter, none of the nurses at the hospital wanted to break the news to her, they were all silent."

"Of course, everyone wants a boy" "Why?" (I said that in reply) "They just do."

"She’s pregnant" – "Oh? Allah uss ko beta day."

 

No matter how hard I try not to get affected by these and other things I have been overhearing since many years, I can still not stop thinking about it sometimes. Hence this blog entry.

 

In the end, its a blessing and trust from Allah that He grants anyone the status of becoming a parent. I can pray for the guidance of us all, whether we have daughters or sons, or neither. Its great that there are still many people who have no preference of gender in their children at all, and whole-heartedly accept whatever their Lord gives them. May Allah make us one of them. Ameen. 

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5 thoughts on ““O Lord, Let it Be a Boy”

  1.  
    you know Sadaf, one may want to have a boy or a girl without considering the benefits or ill benefits from having one. one does not necessarily have children because they want to benefit from them. whether the child be a boy or girl, whether one benefits from them is up to God in the end anyway. you can have a son and he may never support you (whether financially or emotionally) in your old age. or he may choose not to live with you so on and so forth.
     
     

  2. i liked this blog. thankfully, it didn\’t scare me. haha. anyway, i agree with you. i am not married but i have heard all this crap from people – you pick it up as you go along – about how a boychild will be such a blessing and so on. as you know, i crave motherhood more than anything else – i try to rationalize that by assuming it must be a hormonal thing. my body demands motherhood. anyway, coming back to the issue, i would be grateful for a child of any gender. boy, girl – how does that change anything? new life itself is a blessing. God\’s gift to the world. personally, i\’d prefer a girl, but if someday i do have a child, i\’d be grateful to God no matter what the child\’s gender happened to be. afterall isn\’t it God\’s will who He sends to the world? He knows better than we do. maybe you should tell those ignorant fools to show some faith in God – by accepting His decision, His will.

  3. ok there is one thing that I\’m noticing all across your post, I don\’t know if you realize it or that just comes out sub-consciously. Your post mainly seem to be targeted towards your relatives, seems like you have a big family and everyone poke their nose in everyone else business 🙂 something typical of our culture but seems like its really pronounced in your familyAs far as this "boy" thing is concerned seriously I\’m shocked, I thought we Muslims were over it but man there are some big problems going on. Interestingly if these people are a little biology savvy they should know that a woman is not responsible for the sex of the child. She has nothing to do with it. In fact if they want to curse someone then their son is a better candidate to do that, even in case of no child. I remember listening to Zakir Naik, he being a Doctor as well explained this whole thing.http://http://www.crystal-netbook.info/e12552/e12831/e12865/By the way do you send these blog post to your relatives as well ?

  4. Aoa
    I love ur aRticles
    Again,I wud say tht u talk about bitter reality which ppl don’t easily digest.
    Thx for reminding us tht indeed children are indeed a blessing and Trust for us by Allah. We don’t need to pray for a boy or a girl, we just need to pray for good health and other important aspects of life for an upcoming baby. I have seen many examples in my life tht people having a son do not benefit them even if he is in a responsible age. Whether u r blessed with a daughter or a son , u should be thankful to Allah tht He has chosen u to be a parent. Eventually , a parent specially mother gets the chance to up bring her child ( boy or girl ) in such a way tht on the Day of Judgment Allah accepts them and permit them to get in Jannah together inshAllah . By just asking for sons sons sons , then people must introspect themselves that they are losing their Eeman (belief) and Tawakkul in Allah. The Quran tells us the unwelcoming attitude of some parents upon hearing the news of the birth of a baby girl, instead of a baby boy.  Allah has said:

    “And when one of them is informed of (the birth of) a female, his face becomes dark, and he suppresses grief.  He hides himself from the people because of the ill of which he has been informed.  Should he keep it in humiliation or bury it in the ground?  Certainly, evil is what they decide.” (Quran 16:58-59)

    Now chose by urself , in which category you standing!

    JazakAllah o khair
    Umm subhanA

  5. i have gaven birth to 4th daughter few days ago, and till now my husband didn.’t see her , man cann’t understand and also they don’t read your article.

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